watch the crash
watch the crash

Watch the crash. 1971 Los Angeles. DC-9.



See avaikatastrofy you can directly on this site and in the crash section.



June 6 1971 years. Los Angeles International Airport. Flight 706 «Hughes Airwest» preparing for takeoff. On board passenger 44. Their route - a series of short hops between cities in the states of Utah, Idaho and Washington. The captain of the aircraft - Theodore Nikolayya.


Expert: Theodore Nikolayya flew in the Air Force. He was a senior, and anyone who flew with him, he could be calm. His experience inspired confidence. The co-pilot Price Bruner was also very experienced.


            Los Angeles Airport - One of the busiest in North America. Departing traffic controllers direct aircraft for special corridors. By 1971, the airline flew DC-9 for 5 years already. This aircraft's two powerful turboprop engines made it ideal for short to medium haul flights. Hughes Airwest Flight 6 departed Los Angeles at 2:706. The initial segment of the route led the plane to the west. Over the Pacific Ocean, he had to turn northeast and head for Salt Lake City. 4 minutes after takeoff, the co-pilot contacted the control center. In it, Chief Dispatcher Roger Anderson helped the rookie operator gain experience.


Manager: It is not possible to stop and carefully consider every decision. They have to be fast. We need a reaction and pace.


            Controllers had to maintain safe intervals between aircraft leaving Los Angeles and arriving at it.


Manager: In addition to the board 706 «Hughes Airwest» manager could speak with five or six aircraft to gain altitude on intersecting courses.


            They followed the Hughes Airwest DC-9 on the radar. They had markers to watch every plane.


Expert: While the radars are not Automation of, and controllers used in chips. These are small plastic markers with sharp angles. They wrote the call sign of the aircraft, and sometimes his assigned altitude.


            Suddenly, in the control room, the sound of an emergency transmitter worked, which reported a possible emergency situation for the aircraft in their area. The dispatchers did not pay him serious attention, as it often worked by chance. However, at the time the label «Hughes Airwest» disappeared from the radar. Dispatcher said something like: «Hughes Airwest restart the transponder," but there was no answer. Further attempts to contact the aircraft and have not led to success. The case took a bad turn.


            Anderson realized the seriousness of the situation, when a military plane flying past came in contact. From it was reported that they saw explosion on the hillside. DC-9 49 to passengers and crew members on board crashed in the mountains of California. All those on board were killed.


            The crash caused a lot of attention, since Hughes Airwest was owned by Howard Hughes, one of America’s richest people. Therefore, the National Transport Safety Committee (NTSB) sent to investigate this case one of the best specialists - Dick Baker.


            The place of the crash of the aircraft posed a difficult task for the investigators. It was far from civilization, among the cliffs. It was difficult to get there. In the city nearest to the crash site, investigators questioned witnesses to the incident. All the testimony of the witnesses were similar. They said that they had heard the sound of an explosion, and then they saw the DC-9 fall to the ground like a leaf. Some claimed to have seen the DC-9 collide with a fighter in the air. The experts tried to find out where the other plane could have come from. They found out that only in southern California there were several air bases, and soon Dick Baker received the necessary information. On the basis of "El Toro" were missing one aircraft. The Phantom F-4 did not return to the naval infantry base. By the time the Phantom F-4 was the most advanced fighter available to the military. This two-seat fighter could fly twice as fast as sound and exceeded almost all other fighters in maneuverability.


Expert: It was a plane-beast. He had missiles with radar guidance system. You could launch a missile at a target outside its scope.


            The testimony of witnesses left no doubt. Missing fighter from the "El Toro" and was the fighter that collided with DC-9. Also, some witnesses have reported that the fighter performed aerobatic maneuvers before encountered a civilian aircraft.


Expert: If the pilots performed aerobatics, outside specially designated areas, they violated the rules of military aviation.


The black box of the plane crash


            The investigators hoped that the radar recordings would tell them what the F-4 pilots were doing. However, the dispatchers who worked that day reported that the fighter did not appear on their radar at all. Records have confirmed this.


            After a collision in the sky, only the operator of the on-board radar fighter Christopher Schiess was able to get out of the plane. Pilot Zhdeyms-Richard Philips was killed. The Marine Corps sent a specialist to help investigators from the NTSB. Then they worked together. The next day after the crash, the investigators were able to talk to the only survivor in this catastrophe. They questioned Christopher Schiess about aerobatics. However, he insisted that no aerobatics was notAnd they are not to blame for the collision. Christopher asserted that the overtaking aircraft from one base to another, they have risen to the height m 4500. And to look around, but the coup was carried out with the ailerons on 360 degrees. It was a safe maneuver.


Expert: Phantom F-4 a good view from the cockpit. And if you want to look around enough to tilt, and all at once it becomes clearly visible.


            After the coup, Schiss used radar to scan the ground beneath them. According to him, it was at this moment that the DC-9 came from nowhere crashed into them. BUT 5 seconds later, he was catapulted.


The black box of the plane crash.


            There were no “black boxes” on the fighters, so the investigators could not verify the words of Shyss. It was also impossible to find any evidence in the wreckage of the Phantom F-4. A blow at high speed completely destroyed the smaller of the aircraft. To check the story of the young lieutenant, the experts collected the wreckage of the crashed DC-9 and tried to restore its fuselage.


            Investigator: We knew that there was a collision in the air. Our aim was, if possible, to restore the plane and help the investigation to understand who someone crashed.


            Also, experts found flight recorders with DC-9. They were badly damaged, however, they were sent for examination anyway. As investigators continued to examine the wreckage of the plane, the most important part was missing. There was no front of the cockpit. At this time, data came from a parametric recorder. According to them, DC-9 maneuvered little and did not deviate from the set course. After 10 days, a destroyed cabin was finally found. Her research yielded the first serious results.


Judge: After the assembly of the fuselage was possible to see that the keel fighter went straight under the pilots seat and cut off the bow. Phantom F-4 entered DC-9 on the left, just a few meters from its nose. Frankly, F-4 crashed into DC-9, and not vice versa.


            Traces strike showed that a fighter pilot tried to evade a passenger plane. But he is not got. He cut off the nose of the ship, in which there were all the controls and the plane as some witnesses said, was falling like a leaf, until the hit the ground.


Plane crash 1971


            Investigators were convinced that Lieutenant Schiess had a wrong idea of ​​who hit whom. Also, his words in relation to aerobatic maneuvers differed from the testimony of witnesses. With the help of complex calculations, the experts tried to find out whether the fighter carried out any figures, except for rotation around the longitudinal axis. These calculations showed that the fighter pilots drove the plane straight without endangering others. Looking from the ground it was easy to confuse these maneuvers.


Judge: No reason to think that a fighter pilot has been violated or stuntman had no instructions. I am sure that they no longer wanted to go home than play in the sky.


            However, questions still remained. Why more nimble Phantom F-4 did not leave the path of a larger and less agile DC-9. If you pay attention to the weather, it was excellent. There were no visibility limitations. Investigators again questioned Lieutenant Shyss. They learned that the pilots drove the fighter from one base to another and were forced to fly close to international airports. But the main thing that the investigators learned was that the oxygen supply system from the F-4 was faulty. Mechanics based in Nevada could not fix it, and avoid the use of faulty system they were given the order to fly at low altitude. If it was not a problem with the oxygen, they would fly much higher, without interfering with civil aircraft, departing from Los Angeles. But to fly over the mountains of California, they were forced to climb, where there were at the height of the civil aviation. At this time, the pilots looked at the instruments and did not notice a passenger airliner.


Plane crash 1971


            Investigators thought that due to a sharp climb, the pilots were influenced by hypoxia. Therefore, they studied the device fighter. But they were wrong again. The Phantom F-4 is capable of maintaining a stable cabin pressure. There was no oxygen starvation, and the pilots felt good. 


            In aviation, there is a basic concept: “To see and avoid". The task of each pilot is to look out for other aircraft. Investigators wondered why the DC-9 pilots did not try to avoid a crash. They found that civilian pilots do not teach visual search as thoroughly as the military. 


Expert: I do not think that an ordinary member of the crew of the airline was aware of the importance of visual search. There have been studies that have shown that the pilots look out the window at least 50% of time, and sometimes just 20%. Basically, they fly on instruments.


            Even considering that Captain Nikolai was a former military pilot, he had almost no chance to notice the approaching fighter. This was due to the fact that the aircraft very quickly approached.


Expert: We were able to calculate that the rate of convergence of the aircraft was 300 m / s. This speed of a bullet flying out of the barrel of the gun 45-caliber.


the place of the crash


            The color of the fighter was also an important factor. It was painted in blue-gray naval aviation. It was difficult to see him in the sky. This was the purpose of this color scheme. In addition, the situation was aggravated by the design of the DC-9 cockpit. The F-4 was hidden behind the window sashes. The probability that one of the planes would see and try to avoid a collision with the other was negligible.




            None of the pilots that day had enough time to notice the other plane. However, to provide a safe distance between the aircraft and prevent collisions is the responsibility of the controllers. But they did not see the F-4. Investigators found that a couple of interns were working at the control room. They wondered if this could have played its part. Looking through the staff records and records, the experts found that the interns had excellent qualifications and controlled them. They were more attentive than other dispatchers who were in a familiar, routine setting. Drawing attention to the equipment of the control center, the investigators found out that it could not track the fast-flying fighter.


Expert: Phantom F-4 is moving at almost 1000 km / h. And only sometimes the radar could catch him like a blurry speck.


the place of the crash


            Investigators concluded that it was almost impossible to detect the F-4 while it was sweeping across the sky. Also in 1971, military pilots were not instructed on the routes of civil aircraft. In addition, the military aircraft was not required to contact civilian controllers. All this only made the situation worse.


            Investigators came to a disturbing conclusion. America's air transportation system had a serious drawback. Organizations representing civil and military aircraft are not kept in touch with each other. The report of the investigators led to important changes in the rules of air transportation. After this disaster, all planes, without exception, should be visible on the radar and accompanied by controllers on the ground. The lessons learned have helped to introduce changes in air traffic control, which still ensure the safety of passengers. 


View other katstrofy